Cambridge, MA

We went to the US for a couple of weeks – I wanted to attend the Scavenger Meetup in Orlando, and Pierre visited colleagues in Cambridge (near Boston); since both are on the same coast, it played out pretty well.

What did NOT play out pretty well is that I sprained my ankle quite badly less than two weeks before leaving, and I was still sporting a “potato foot” and walking with an aircast and a crutch when we left for the US. Consequently, I didn’t explore around as much as I would typically have – but I still got a few photo albums out of it!

New England Aquarium

The New England Aquarium in Boston is a staple of my visits there – I like the place, I like their gigantic tank in the middle, and it’s generally a cool place to take pictures.

And they have fun jelly fish too.

The full album is here: New England Aquarium in Boston – 2019.

Harvard Museum of Natural History

I had never visited the Harvard Museum of Natural History – and despite my initial grumbling about stairs at the entrance (there WAS an accessible entry. I just chose to grumble instead.), I absolutely loved it πŸ™‚

The first thing that caught my interest was the botany exhibition.

All of these are… glass models, made between the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. They’re really impressive (I couldn’t believe they were made of glass) and very pretty. I’ll have to go back, because my pictures are shitty, but the models are very pretty.

The other room where I spent a lot of time was the mineralogy collection.

It was truly fantastic, a lot of specimens, great curation, and even panels on the side explaining where to find the Minecraft rocks πŸ˜€

Also, does this guy look hungry or what?

I believe that the “animal” sections were also great, but I got unfortunately freaked out before I could appreciate their true worth – I was still not walking very well and I got tired, that probably didn’t help.

The full album is here: Harvard Museum of Natural History.

A short walk through Cambridge

There’s a pretty famous MIT building, the Stata center, designed by Frank Gehry. I hadn’t managed to get a decent picture of it in my previous stays in the area, but that’s now fixed – we went on a walk on Memorial Day and I was able to get a few shots from an angle I had noticed a few days before.

On the same day, we walked a bit along the river, ran into a bunch of kayaks:

who happily provided me with some foreground:

And we dropped by the board games and comic book shops near Harvard – which was preparing for graduation ceremonies:

The full set is here (and it’s the smallest of all three): Cambridge – 2019.


I went to Cambridge. I made pictures. They are here:

#balisebooks – April/June 2019

Version franΓ§aise ici : #balisebooks – Avril-Juin 2019

Two #balisebooks in one because of traveling and other adventures!

A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe – Alex White

Protagonist 1, Nilah, a very pampered racing driver who ends up on the wrong side of a conspiracy. Protagonist 2, Boots, who sells creatively enhanced salvage/treasure maps. Both end up, because reasons, on a wild goose chase for a legendary warship, while being hunted by a Big Bad.

I kind of believe that I would have liked this more at a different time. There’s honestly a lot of good things in there, and a lot of things I’d enjoy normally – I quite liked the characters, and I think the story was pretty good, but…. I don’t know. I think it felt messy and rushed, for some reason, and I really had a hard time finishing it.

Tell Me Three Things – Julie Buxbaum

Jessie’s dad just moved to L.A., so Jessie is the new kid in a very intimidating high school. Luckily for her, she soon starts receiving anonymous e-mails from one of her schoolmates who decided to help her navigate the whole thing. Not hugely believable for a few reasons, but a fun, lighthearted and cute read that put me in a very good mood.

Dear Mrs. Bird – A.J. Pearce

During WW2 in London, Emmy accidentally becomes typist for a woman’s advice column. Said advice column is supposed to stay Proper and to not contain any Unpleasantness – but Emmy starts secretly writing back to the letters that are not to her boss’ liking but that she still feels require an answer.

This felt like a nice premise, but I was a bit disappointed. The story was mostly about Emmy and what would go wrong if she ever got discovered, whereas I was almost expecting an epistolary novel that would be more centered around the people writing to her. I may have liked it better with the right expectations, but I may not have read it with the right expectations πŸ™‚

Bad Astronomy – Philip Plait

I mostly heard of Phil Plait because of his Astronomy Crash Course – which I haven’t taken the time to watch yet. Since books are more “my” medium than video, Bad Astronomy had been on my to-read list for a while too, but I eventually read it πŸ™‚ Plait goes through a number of “myths” surrounding astronomy, from bad explanations of how tides actually work to astrology, and corrects them. I had never heard some of these myths, so it made for a somewhat bizarre read at times πŸ™‚

Generally speaking, a very good pop science book. I would have appreciated a liiiittle BIT more maths/physics. Typical example – at some point he talks about orbital energy, and I ended up looking that up for myself – so, in a sense, good that it gave me the taste for it enough; in another, slightly frustrating that it wasn’t just a little bit more “here’s the equation” content. Still – I learnt stuff, and I want to dig more in the topic – so that’s definitely a good thing πŸ™‚

Except the Dying – Maureen Jennings

I have a huge fondness for the Canadian series Murdoch Mysteries, and the series credits that series of books, so it was kind of a given that I’d end up digging into them. William Murdoch is an acting detective (detective, in the series) in Toronto in the late 1800s and, well, solves crimes. This one has to do with a young woman found dead, naked in the snow – who is she, how did she end up in that situation? While the book version of Murdoch is grittier and apparently far less nice, the book was still quite entertaining and enjoyable.

L’Γ‰cole des soignantes – Martin Winckler

(no English translation yet)

It had been a while since I had read Martin Winckler! L’Γ‰cole des soignantes takes place in 2039, and is essentially a medical utopia (with a touch of sci-fi), following the main character, Hannah, during their training in an unusual medical unit. A number of reviews reproach Winckler to lay it on thick with regards to his agendas (standards of care, feminism, medical training), but to me that’s expected and welcome. So, all in all: exceeded expectations (because I got what I came for, and on top of that I really liked the ending).

Say Yes to the Marquess – Tessa Dare

Clio has been engaged for 8 years, and decided she’s had enough and to break the engagement. Her betrothed is abroad, and left his business with his brother – so that’s the person Clio tries to convince to sign the papers to get her freedom back. Shenanigans ensue, including plans for a brewery.

This was exactly what I needed at that time – a nice story with likable protagonists, the promise of a Happily Ever After, and still enough tension to not be ENTIRELY SURE what the HAE actually will be. Really liked it!

Babylon’s Ashes – James S.A. Corey

6th book of The Expanse, where we deal with the aftermath of the previous book events, try to handle the politics (or lack thereof) of the new faction in play, and generally try to do the Right Thingβ„’ at interplanetary scale.

I thought this one was a bit slow to start, and it took me a little while to warm to it, but eventually it picks up the pace and continues telling the story of the Rocinante, its crew, its friends and foes. (And I really kind of want to ship with these people. Yeah, despite all the unpleasant events.)

The Governess Game – Tessa Dare

Another Tessa Dare – I was in the mood for something lighthearted, and I got that in The Governess Game πŸ™‚ Alexandra sets clocks to Greenwich time, and gets almost accidentally hired as a governess for two little girls that are wards of a duke, into whom she had bumped a few months earlier at the bookshop. This was a super fun read – the children were fun, Alex has somewhat of a Mary Poppins streak to her (and chases comets), but I think it lacked a bit of tension/conflict towards the end. Still, thoroughly enjoyable.

Spiderman visited ZΓΌrich!

One of the direct consequences of my Scavenger trip to Orlando (more about that later) is that I got weirdly motivated to start learning “proper” photo editing/processing. And hence, here comes my first attempt at that – and a bit of write-up, both to not forget what I did, and to share with whoever may find it useful.

I started with a picture of Spiderman taken during the workshop:

The picture itself is a Spiderman action figure, held with a piece of 8-gauge wire to some box in the room, and lit with a Lume cube (I’m DEFINITELY getting a couple of these) held in the hand that was not holding the camera. This is already processed a tiny bit in Darktable – levels, (debatable) white balance, that sort of things. I exported in TIFF to not start compressing before I had to, but I’m not sure this was absolutely necessary.

Then I looked into my archives for places where I could put Spiderman, and I ran into this older picture, snagged with my phone a while ago to show snow falling quite late in the year:

Now that I had something that I thought could work, time to start GIMP and work on it! The first step was getting a cleaner image of Spiderman, removing the background. I first cropped the image to only contain the part I was interested in, added a layer mask to my image, and worked with the paintbrush tool (with finer and finer brushes) to remove all the stuff that was Not Spiderman. I left the bit of wire that held the figure on the waist, I figured it was not that visible and could be confused with a belt, or something. In order to keep the layer and the mask (if I wanted to go back to the picture), I created a new layer from the “visible content”, and that’s what I copy in the other image. (I have no idea if that’s the “canonical” way of doing things, but it worked that way for me πŸ˜‰ ).

Then I pasted and scaled/positioned the figure in the image, doing my best to match the lights in both images.

I did make a mistake there: I realized that my clipping was not great (there was still a lot of stuff around the legs, in particular), but instead of correcting it in the initial image, I started correcting it in the composite. Retrospectively, it doesn’t make much sense; I’ll blame jet lag.

I blurred the background so that it would look better (especially since Spidey’s legs DO have focus blur) – I’m not sure if it was blurred enough, it’s tough to tell. I also re-added a couple of brighter spots in the image to better match the light on Spiderman, which I think kind of helped, but that I might have over done it a bit. I also added a bit light below my pasted Spiderman. I also tried my best to better match the color temperature of both images – I think it’s okay.

Finally, Spiderman cannot be complete without a couple of spider webs – especially since his hands are very much in position! These ones were paths, stroked in grey and edited with a large white brush to make them a little bit less uniform. I tried playing with the gradient tool (which seemed…. made for the task), but failed at it. Then, I decreased the opacity of the “web” layer, and added a bit of blur to it. The spider webs are in my opinion definitely the weakest part of the image, and I kind of believe that making them better would require better drawing skills than mine πŸ˜‰

Still, for a first attempt at this sort of things, I’m super pleased with the result πŸ™‚

25th Scavenger Hunt – 3/3

It seems fitting to start writing this post at the airport while waiting from my flight back from the Scavenger meet-up, where I got to meet a great group of great people, learn stuff and get a lot of ideas of new things to try and to experiment. But, without further ado, here are the remaining pictures of my 25th Scavenger Hunt submission (the first two parts are in previous posts: 25th Scavenger Hunt – 1/3 and 25th Scavenger Hunt – 2/3).


I’ve been wanting to experiment with photographing rocks and minerals for a while now (but lacking the proper subject to do so). And then, at some point, I remembered that there was a mineral shop that I wanted to visit in ZΓΌrich, and that it had been closed every time I had been there (it’s in a part of town where I like strolling, but mostly stroll on Sundays, for some reason!) I finally pushed their door one afternoon, and came home with a small haul of small stones, including this very pretty Green emerald stone. And no, emerald doesn’t break the bank when it’s in that form πŸ˜›

The picture is a composite of between 10 and 20 pictures, focus-stacked using Zerene. I shot the stone on my paper background, and was pretty surprised to see its texture appear below the stone – but I happened to really like the effect (not to mention being profoundly unable to edit it away :P), so I kept it that way.


My shot for Quarter started as a backup “if I don’t get a better idea” shot – literally shooting my dinner, in fairly crappy evening light on top of that. And then, I started playing a bit with it, darkening the background, playing with the orientation, and it started to become a shot I didn’t hate, so it ended up being the final shot.


Knife is one of the last words I tackled, if I remember correctly. Inspiration had not struck there either, so I went for yet another easy kitchen shot as my husband was cutting onions.


Something would be missing if I did a Scavenger Hunt without a single board game picture πŸ˜‰ So for Button, here’s a picture of Patchwork, a very neat two-player game where players compete at building the best quilt, and where buttons are used as a currency and as victory points.

It hasn’t always been the case (I’m thinking of a Squash entry for a previous hunt), but now I’m trying to get a credible game state whenever I take board game pictures. And the easiest way to do that is to actually play the game, even by myself playing the different players (which is exactly what I did there).

And the picture itself was mostly a matter of finding a pleasant enough angle.


That’s the most accidental one of the whole set: I went to the aquarium to shoot Sponge, I came home, and I realized I could play the penguins for Ice. Not a great picture by any means, but it’s part of the full set, so I’ll be happy with that πŸ™‚


Second self-portrait (over a set of 26 pictures, I would have expected more of them!) for Remote. Buying a remote trigger for my camera was one of the best decisions I made, because I really use it quite often, either for that kind of application or to avoid moving the camera when triggering the shutter manually. So for once, it’s very visible in the picture πŸ™‚

I was also playing with the studio lights that my colleague had lent me – I’m not necessarily convinced by my work with them on this picture, but I like how my hand has more light than the rest of me. And it was generally speaking a good exercise for me to start playing with these things (although it gets warm very fast!). Also: probably should have brushed my hair before taking that picture πŸ˜› (But hey, this is a photography thing, not a modelling thing πŸ˜€ )

I had a different set of pictures with a pose where I’m holding the remote as if it were a pistol; I liked the image more, but I was not comfortable sharing it publicly, so you get this one instead πŸ™‚


My Donut was an unexpected find in the frozen goods aisle of a large supermarket – I took a couple of picture with my phone from above, and boom. The plan B was to have my husband make some donuts during the Hunt time – he probably wouldn’t have objected to the idea πŸ˜‰

The picture is somewhat more processed than usual – for some reason, I was trying to get a “retro” look for this picture, because it felt like the right thing for it; I’m actually pretty happy with how it turned out.


Yellow also benefited from my trip to the mineral shop that gave me Green at the top of this post. It was significantly more annoying to shoot, though, even if it’s a single image (not a composite). That stone is obviously much more interesting when you see the inclusions and the transparency, which meant backlighting, which meant struggling to find a way to hold that thing vertically – it doesn’t hold on its own, and it’s small enough that there’s no easy way to find a support that doesn’t hide it completely. I finally solved the problem by leaning the stone against my studio lamp, and putting it over a box covered with my faithful dark fabric.

The processing was mostly making the blacks black and the whites white (although I failed at that in the left corner and I’m grumpy now that I see it).

And there, those were all my entries for the 25th Scavenger Hunt… which makes me want to ask, do we have a list for 26th yet? πŸ˜€

25th Scavenger Hunt – 2/3

Second post of my Scavenger Hunt pictures! The first part and a bit of context is here: 25th Scavenger Hunt – 1/3.


My Leaf comes from… my balcony. I have a 5th floor balcony, all concrete and metal and everything, and that thing’s been growing in the drain πŸ™‚ Life… finds a way, I suppose. The picture was mostly a matter of lying down on the balcony, arranging the offshoot to get the right angle over the drain grille (which I really like as a background here).


Olive was also a theme for last hunt, and I was super happy with my entry there, but completely out of ideas for a new one. Lukily, this pretty MG spawned in my neighborhood (and stayed long enough that I have multiple views of it, even if they’re all on my phone!)


My Vase entry is firmly on the “I’m happy with this one” side. It started with a bouquet of tulips, which I had initially bought for another word of this hunt (one that has not been revealed yet, shhh!), and ended up being used in yet another image (but not in the original theme) πŸ™‚ I took a fair amount of pictures of that (by that time wilted) bouquet – this one was taken on the floor, in front of my dishes cabinet, and it worked really well in my opinion, with the white-blue-grey of the vase and the white of the cabinet behind. I’m also very happy with the crop, which happened almost by accident. Generally speaking, I like that picture πŸ™‚


Earring also ended up being a favorite of mine, despite being somewhat in the “hmm, I don’t really have an idea there”. I actually searched Google Images for inspiration – that’s where I got the idea of setting up on the side of a glass. And then it kind of clicked – I went for a “after the wedding” theme, using my own wedding jewelry (and my husband’s cufflinks), adding the hair pins in one of the glass (there’s definitely a memory of removing a gazillion hair pins πŸ˜€ ), and finishing the image with a piece of ribbon, also coming from our “wedding memories” box. Setting up all of that in my softbox, and voilΓ  !


Fire would probably have ended up with me playing with me playing with candles in one way or another, if my husband hadn’t decided to try his hand at crΓ¨me brΓ»lΓ©e during Hunt time (better: FANCY crΓ¨me brΓ»lΓ©e, with roquefort and pecans. It was delicious.) And I actually manage to react quickly enough for a “waaaait a minute, this is relevant to my interests” camera-grabbing. A thing of note on that image is that I flipped it on the vertical axis because it “felt” better that way, which is not something I often think of, and I’m definitely happy I did, because the image is better that way. Sometimes things are weird πŸ™‚


For Chocolate, my husband is also to be credited πŸ™‚ He made some chocolate (it’s a thing that happens from time to time – I started it, he took over πŸ˜‰ ), I arranged it in a corner of the kitchen and snagged that shot. Easy-peasy!

I had a “backup shot” with some (delicious) hot chocolate in a cafΓ© in ZΓΌrich, but I ended up going for this one that I liked more (for one thing, it’s pretty difficult to make the difference, on a photography, between a hot chocolate and an espresso… except by the size of the cup!)


There was a full Moon and clear skies a few days after the Scavenger Hunt start – perfect opportunity for some balcony shots! This image is a composite of two – the lines and halo are from my neighbor’s balcony (the moon was “trapped” in there for a while), and the moon on top was shot at a different exposure. I’m happy that I had previous experience with taking pictures of the moon, because it’s non-trivial at first glance, but it goes well with the the right technique (expose at f/11 – 1/250 – ISO as required, use tripod and remote, do NOT focus at infinity, use live view and zoom and peak focus to focus properly).

I was expecting to go for a more “natural” look of the composite, but I actually kind of liked the “quirky” effect that this one had (it’s like the moon’s a penny!). It was my first shot of the Hunt, and I’m still quite happy with it.


I had a lot of fun with Jellybean. I don’t eat much candy; I’d assume I could find an equivalent of jellybeans in Switzerland, but I didn’t find anything convincing when I browsed my supermarket aisle. Hence, time for some creative solutions: let’s have… jelly beans, I guess. I found a pack of red strawberry jelly, which I made with slightly less water than was written on the package to get something that would really hold together for the picture. And I took the prettiest dry beans I could find, sorted though the package for the best looking ones, assembled all of this, and tadaa! At first I wanted to just do a “food” shot, but I decided it’d be funnier to go for the “I don’t know what all these people are raving about, jellybeans are DISGUSTING!” approach πŸ™‚


My first idea for Pencil was to go for a bunch of pencil shavings – you can always get a pretty graphical shot with these, and I liked the idea of just “suggesting” the pencils by their absence. But in the end, the laziness prevailed and I went for a shot of my pencil box. It turns out that I broke my blue pencil, and it’s consequently significantly shorter than the other ones, which give a bit of interest to the picture. (But I do own the replacement of that pencil somewhere πŸ˜‰ ). I spent a large amount of time sorting the pencils in an order that made sense to me, and then some time shooting them from different angles, before deciding for that one.

25th Scavenger Hunt – 1/3

I’ve been participating for a few hunts to what has been known as Chrysta Rae’s Scavenger Hunt, as Google+ Scavenger Hunt, and which these days is the Photography Scavenger Hunt – and I may or may not be in the US right now for next week’s Scavenger meetup πŸ˜‰

This was the 25th Hunt, and as a way to celebrate, we got a very large hunt: 26 words! They were the words of the first Hunt, to which I didn’t participate. And, as you’d expect from the number, there was one word per letter of the alphabet.

I did manage to submit a picture for each word – and I’m very proud of that – although the overall quality of the pictures is obviously very inconsistent πŸ™‚ (I’m still VERY HAPPY with a significant amount of my shots, so there’s that πŸ™‚ )

In this post and the following two, I’ll present what I submitted; I’ll present them in the same order as they were revealed in our community, because this way I don’t have to think as much πŸ˜‰ And I’m adding a link to the community albums as well – these are definitely fun to browse!


I thought I’d be stumped by Acorn until almost the last minute. And then I remembered that the Swiss card game Jass had an Acorn suite! So I went to my neighboring toy shop, bought a maxi set of Jass cards (which means I can now play Jass – I just need to learn how to play πŸ˜‰ ) and, after a bit of tinkering, I arrived at the shot above. I’m not super happy with it because I think it’s quite boring, but I’m happy I found something to submit πŸ™‚


I recently started playing with lettering and brush pen calligraphy, so that made my submission for Z kind of obvious. The drill sheet comes from The Postman’s Knock, and the picture itself is pretty straightforward πŸ™‚


I think my Xylophone entry is my favorite for this Hunt. SOME PEOPLE argue that a XYLOphone is necessarily wood – and they’re not wrong, BUT considering the Hunt album, it’s VERY CLEAR that Fisher Price has done A LOT for the popular image that comes to mind when saying “xylophone” πŸ˜‰

So I made mine with glasses filled with water – something which, as far as I can tell, happens at roughly one wedding out of two at least πŸ˜‰ – and I used food coloring to evoke said Fisher Price image. I then played with the angle of the light – the one I ended up shooting had the light pretty low, which allowed to get colored shadows, which I really, really liked, at the cost of fairly strong reflections, which I liked… less.

Post-processing was mostly color correction to get a better visual (especially on the red and the orange) – I’m almost tempted to correct it now since I’ve seen that I had forgotten to correct the little dots at the bottom of the glasses for consistency πŸ™‚

And, for the record: this xylophone is _roughly_ in tune – I could play a few tunes on it without hurting my ears too much (I do not have a very good ear, though πŸ˜‰ ).


For my Sponge entry, I went on a day trip to Konstanz – which I documented already: Sea Life. I had gone there for the specific purpose of shooting a sponge picture, and I’m happy the trip worked out πŸ™‚


For Whistle, I knew I wasn’t going to be stuck, because I knew that, in the worst case, I’d setup and shoot Whistle Stop (the board game). But then I was actually too lazy to setup the game, so I fell back on this – which involved a significant amount of YouTube watching to be able to pull off a credible whistle gesture. And no, I still can’t whistle that way. I’m very disappointed.


My Hamburger submission was a cell phone picture snagged at Fork&Bottle during a dinner with friends. It was a “backup” shot that I ended up using almost as is.


Underwear (careful, NSFW album) was the word I had estimated with the highest chance of stumping me when the list came out. That’s not the kind of theme I’m super comfortable with πŸ˜€ But in the end, I’m very happy with what I came up with. I was definitely going for a “Nike ad” kind of aesthetics, and I think I pulled it off. (Well, except for the Adidas bag below, I guess.) It was also an opportunity to experiment with real studio lights and reflectors than a colleague of mine had lent me (which allowed me to conclude that I really didn’t want the same softbox setup because it was a huge pain to assemble πŸ˜‰ ).


Another uninspired shot for Newspaper πŸ˜‰ I almost snagged a picture from someone reading a newspaper on the train, but I didn’t manage to actually gather the courage to do that. So instead, I setup my tripod and my camera timer to take pictures every few seconds while I prepared newspaper for recycling (in Switzerland we have to bind paper together to recycle it) – so at least I learnt how to program my camera timer for that sort of sequence πŸ™‚


I don’t exactly remember when I got the idea of “ooooh I need LEGO” for the Tire theme, but it was early enough that I had made a few attempts at setting things up with my regular collection of toys and concluded that I needed a figure at another scale than what I had. That made it quite obvious that I needed a LEGO Technic figurine – so I hit Bricklink, ordered a couple, and they arrived a few days later (so I’m now the owner of a couple of LEGO Technic guys.)

I honestly wish I had taken the time to re-shoot this one – at least to get a black road instead of my white-ish balcony. (I tried to edit it in post-processing and failed miserably πŸ˜‰ ). Part of my issue there was that I couldn’t think of a place where I could find believable black terrain and not feel super self-conscious with my setup :/ So to me, this one falls into the category of “I liked my idea, I’m really not convinced about my implementation”.

That’s it for this first reveal post – more to come!

52Frames, weeks 17, 18 and 19

I haven’t posted my 52Frames pictures in the past three weeks over here, so let’s fix that!

Week 17 – Upside Down

Fine, this one I had already posted when I talked about the ZΓΌrich Botanical Garden. Reflections were explicitly on topic for the “Upside Down” theme, and I accidentally found that one, so there it is. I’m a bit disappointed that I didn’t get a cleaner reflection – but it’s pretty hard to find a ripple-free moment at a time where there’s a lot of visitors, including some who throw stones in the pond πŸ™‚

Week 18 – The Dark Side

I’ll admit a lack of time, inspiration and motivation for The Dark Side theme – especially since I hurt myself that week! (I sprained my ankle, I’m fine, but it’s still SUPER annoying.) So I snapped that one and called it “The Dark Side of Holidays” πŸ˜‰ With a bonus dark chocolate line-up πŸ˜›

Week 19 – Textures

I was actually looking forward to the Texture theme, because I was envisioning a “hunt for textures” photo-walk, which, considering the picture of Week 18… kind of did not happen. Thankfully, SOMEONE has been baking and working on their buttercream piping skills, so I got a yummy texture picture for their efforts πŸ˜‰